School’s out for summer

Alan Parkinson By Alan Parkinson

Geographer and GetOutside Champion, Alan Parkinson gives our teachers some outdoor inspiration for the school holiday period.

Since the school year started in September 2017, teachers have spent around 195 days working (mostly) within four walls (unless they are PE teachers). The outside has been glimpsed through the classroom windows, or on the walk over to the dining hall, or through the windscreen of a car or train window on the daily commute.

Teachers in some parts of the United Kingdom will, over the next few weeks be able to put that routine aside for a while (apologies to Scottish colleagues who are already approaching the end of this period) and spend a little more time enjoying the great outdoors.

This piece will provide some ideas for activities teachers can engage with while they GetOutside (they are also suitable for non-teachers of course).

1. Visit new locations

Walking along coastline

Pack a local OS map sheet, or access on your device, and visit a location which is relevant to your teaching, and which you have always wanted to see in reality. This will depend on your subject specialism(s), but there are some possibilities here.


Your location may be a geographical case study – I managed to head down to the Jurassic Coast, and visit the classic natural arch at Durdle Door, which I hadn't seen for forty years.

There could also be urban locations, which have perhaps changed significantly since you last visited them.

Use the Augmented Reality (AR) element of the OS Maps app to identify significant local features of interest.


For History colleagues, this may be a trip to Hadrian’s Wall, and to take a walk along a section.

Ordnance Survey have produced an excellent map of Roman Britain which shows roads, cities and important ancient monuments, and could form the basis for a day’s investigations, or go back to Ancient Britain.

More recently, there are a number of World War II installations, some of which like Walton on the Naze used to be off limits, which are plotted on maps, or former airfields from which the Battle of Britain was fought.

Alan Parkinson at Durdle Door

Media Studies

The UK is used by many film companies as the backdrop to their dramas, and there will be a range of local film locations to visit. Where I live, in Norfolk, we have a range to choose from, and there will no doubt be some local to where you live too.

Over in Northern Ireland, the filming for ‘Game of Thrones’ has generated a great deal of jobs and investment for local people.


Some significant locations of scientific work are featured on OS maps. Some of these might be related to research, or particular events that led to discoveries. You could also carry out your own research e.g. are you a linear or a looper when it comes to walking routes?

Take some time to walk a few of the 220 000 kilometres of public rights of way.

2. Take out your camera

Capture some images for presentations that you will use in your teaching. These could be simple ‘stock’ images of landscape elements.

  • Images can be shared on the Geograph website, to help create the mosaic of images that is already there, building up a visual picture of the UK’s landscape. Interestingly there are still some grid squares unclaimed, despite there being almost 6 million images hosted on the site, so perhaps it’s time to go well off the beaten track to claim these for yourself.
  • There are also opportunities to enter competitions, such as BBC Countryfile’s annual search for 12 images for their 2019 calendar, which will be sold in aid of Children in Need as always. The theme for this year is very apt as it is ‘The Call of the Wild’, so there is plenty of opportunity to get outside to nature reserves, or the wilderness areas of the UK.

You can upload all of your own images to a Flickr account, which provides plenty of free storage space. Check out the Ordnance Survey’s Flickr images for further inspiration.

Norfolk broads

3. Mix up your usual commuting route

Take your usual commuting route, but in a slightly different way to the usual. Very often, our minds are on the day ahead, or on getting home to family, and we might not notice all those extra details in the landscape. Follow the route on an OS map, and look a couple of grid squares to either side of your usual main road. You will perhaps identify features that you never realised were there.

On my route between the Brecklands of Norfolk and the city of Ely, there are windmills, bird reserves, castles and priories, riverside inns and ancient churches: more than enough to have a wonderful day out sight-seeing.

4. Take off your school shoes

Replace them with sliders, and head for the coast. Your Ordnance Survey map will show you the nature of the landscape: the sandy beaches and the shingle ones, and the areas where there are rights of way to explore the edges. Catch up with the journey of Quintin Lake, who is currently three years into a five year project to walk and photograph the perimeter of the UK.

Perhaps now is the time to visit some of the UK’s many islands, and investigate one that you have never been to before.Alasdair Rae’s excellent image will identify the largest for you or visit the locations on the Jurassic Coast featured on BBC’s Beach Live programmes.

5. Check out an Adventure Map

Why not track your summer adventures against those featured on S, T & G’s Great British Adventure Map. Do you know of other local adventures which have not been mentioned?

And finally, if you’re leaving the UK behind you won’t, sadly, be able to use your Ordnance Survey maps, but look closely at your passport and you’ll see the involvement of the OS is still there too.

Let us know where your UK travels will take you in the comments below.

Happy holidays!

Adventure Map

Alan Parkinson By Alan Parkinson


Alan is a geographer, author, teacher, Mission:Explorer and curriculum maker.

Find out more about Alan Parkinson.